Dusty Springfield

  • British singer born Mary O’Brien in 1939 in London England. Died in 1999 of breast cancer.
  • Her family enjoyed music, playing recordings by American jazz, Big Band and show tune artists. She was given the nickname “Dusty” because she often played soccer in the streets with neighborhood boys. She wanted to sound like a jazz artist, and at the age of 12, she recorded an Irving Berlin song at a local record shop. After high school, she began to sing with her brother at local folk clubs. In 1958, she answered an advertisement in a British entertainment magazine and joined The Lana Sisters. Here, she developed her singing skills, and they performed on TV and in concerts.
  • In 1960, she joined a folk trio, The Springfields, which earlier that year was formed by her brother Tom and another artist. She started using “Springfield” as a stage name. They recorded 3 studio albums and several EPs, and a few singles charted in the U.S. and UK. Their final album in 1963 was recorded in Nashville – while there, Springfield was inspired by the local music and decided to move away from folk music, instead moving towards pop music rooted in R&B.
  • She left The Springfields in October 1963 and started a solo career. In November, she released her first single, I Only Want To Be With You. It was a major production, complete with horns, strings, and backing singers, in the style of the R&B girl groups of the times. It was a hit, reaching #4 in the UK and #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. After her second single, Stay Awhile, also was a hit, an album quickly was put together for the U.S. market that featured both singles. A couple months prior to that, her debut album for the UK was released, named A Girl Called Dusty.
  • Several songs from these albums were written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, as well as Gerry Goffin and Carole King. Over the years, she became a prominent performer for these writers. Hit songs by Springfield that were penned by Bacharach/David include Wishin’ and Hopin” (#4 on the Hot 100), and The Look of Love (#22).
  • During the 60s, she released 10 studio albums, and 9 singles broke into the top 40 in the U.S., while 15 were UK top 40 songs. Her most successful single during this time was You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me, which topped the UK charts and peaked at #4 in the U.S. Her 1968 soul single Son of a Preacher Man peaked at #10 in the U.S., and Rolling Stone places it at #242 on its Greatest Songs of All Time list. The song was part of the album Dusty In Memphis, which Rolling Stone ranks at #89 of its GOAT list of albums. In 2001, the album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
  • By the 70s, Springfield had lost her popularity on the radio. She charted in the top 40 in the U.S. only once – Brand New Me reached #24 in 1970. Twenty more singles released during the decade were largely ignored. In 1987, she was invited to collaborate with the English synth-pop group Pet Shop Boys, and she sang a duet on the song What Have I Done To Deserve This? It became Springfield’s biggest hit in the U.S., peaking at #2 on the Hot 100.
  • She continued to record in the 90s, releasing 2 albums. In 1994, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, which went into remission after chemotherapy. By mid-1996, the cancer returned, and she died in 1999 – on the day that she was to receive her award as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.
  • Springfield was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 2 weeks after her death. She was ranked at #35 on Rolling Stone’s list of the Greatest Singers of All Time (and #7 among women) – a remarkably high ranking. She is considered an icon of the Swinging Sixties. Here she is at her “Blue-Eyed Soul” peak, singing Son of a Preacher Man.

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